Advancing gender equality

Our commitments to advancing gender equality, the empowerment of women and girls, and the promotion and protection of their human rights.

Gender equality contributes to:

  • long-term sustainable economic growth
  • social progress
  • sustainable development
  • national, political, social, cultural and economic development

We are committed to promoting these key Canadian values through:

  • international development assistance
  • diplomatic advocacy
  • trade policy and services

Advancing gender equality is at the heart of our international assistance. All of our development policies and programs aim to empower women and we implement specific projects to achieve these goals.

Protecting and advancing women’s and girls’ human rights remains a foreign policy priority. These discussions take place with other countries and in multilateral forums.

The Government of Canada empowers women to be equal decision-makers and agents of change in economic, social and political processes. The focus is on:

  • achieving equitable and sustainable progress
  • improving women's status
  • respecting women’s rights and contributions

Progress toward gender equality and empowerment of women and girls in the development agenda requires:

  • a human rights-based approach
  • the engagement of men and boys
  • the support to women’s organizations

Supporting the rights of women and girls

Through our international development and peace and security initiatives, we support international efforts to enhance the role of women and girls.

We played an important role in advocating for gender equality and empowering women and girls in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We work with like-minded partners to implement gender equality within all programs.

Canada was one of the first countries to sign and ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The convention set international standards for eliminating gender discrimination.

We participated in the groundbreaking development of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action in 1993. This declaration stated that “women’s rights are human rights”.

It also called for action to integrate the equal status and human rights of women and girls in the mainstream of UN system-wide activities.

The Government of Canada supports resolutions to eliminate violence against women and girls—this includes so-called ‘honour’ crimes, female genital mutilation and other traditional or customary practices that affect the health of women and girls. We were also instrumental in ensuring sexual and gender-based crimes were included in the draft Statute for the International Criminal Court.

Our work at the UN has contributed to the development of the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women and the establishment and renewal of the mandate for a UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences. The Special Rapporteur’s role is to gather information on violations and make recommendations to eliminate violence against women and to help cope with its consequences.

The Government of Canada also launched an Action Plan for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security, in October 2010.

World conferences on women

The UN World Conferences on Women have been important catalysts to move the agenda forward on gender equality, the empowerment of women and girls and their human rights.

We played a key role at the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, which resulted in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The declaration identified 12 critical areas of concern and set out a course of action to ensure the protection and advancement of women’s rights around the world.

The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) meets every year to evaluate progress and identify challenges related to gender equality.

Following the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the CSW annual meeting has reviewed the Beijing declaration every five years. It reaffirms the international community’s commitment to its full and accelerated implementation. Canada will become a member of this Commission for the 2017–2020 term.

We promote similar efforts in other international platforms such as the:

  • Commonwealth
  • Francophonie
  • Organization of American States
  • Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
  • Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development 
  • Group of Seven (G7)

Gender-based analysis

Conducting gender-based analysis will provide key insights to achieve sustainable development results for gender equality.

The Government of Canada adopted the Federal Plan for Gender Equality in 1995 as a response to the Beijing Platform for Action created at the Fourth World Conference on Women (1995). The key commitment of the Federal Plan was to “implement gender-based analysis throughout federal departments and agencies”.

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